Postion: Head Copy Editor
College: University of Kansas
It took slightly less than four years, but it finally hit me.
Last Tuesday was the first day of senior finals. It marked the day of my final two-mile track race – a grueling competition filled with hypothetical mind-games on how to endure the pain. And I was just a day away from my 56th and final Harbinger deadline after three and a half years on staff. The end was near. I should have been ecstatic.
Yet as I flung my track bag and backpack into the trunk of my car, a wave of sadness smacked into me. This was the last week that this white Pathfinder, which had been passed down from my older sister to my brother and finally to me, would rattle down Mission Road and park alongside a fleet of cars belonging to people I have known and grown to love over nearly two decades.
Driving to school that day, I realized that I’m not sharing the graduation giddiness that surrounded me. Sure, I’m excited to graduate on Wednesday and then eventually head down K-10 to Lawrence to attend the University of Kansas.
But as I consider the next chapter in my life, I’m not yet ready to turn the page on the current one. Shawnee Mission East may receive some unnecessary criticism from those that aren’t familiar with the staff and students here. They think that they have the East stereotype pegged – a group of spoiled, unmotivated students that never do anything for themselves. Having attended, and hopefully eventually graduated from, this fine institution, I can attest to the fact that these people couldn’t be more misled.
There are few other places where nearly every major academic program – journalism, theatre, choir, marketing, debate – competes and excels at the national level. There are few other places where the teachers care so much about the students and their work that they’ll stay at school, away from their family, until 10 p.m. on a deadline or work late into the night in an Orlando hotel room just to ensure that every single student’s DECA presentation is completely ready for the judges. There are few places where the students are so aware of the problems in the world around them that they insist on finding ways to solve them, whether it is the countless efforts of Coalition or a walk for a family that has lost their home in a fire. There are few other places where the students develop a bond over their high school experience that results in an essentially familial senior class, year after year. And there are no other places at which I’d rather have spent my last four years.
I spent my last four years at a place where even those lacking a blazing fastball or smooth jumpshot can still enjoy a long athletic career. Freshman B basketball, C-team soccer, JV tennis – I tried them all out my first three years before finally deciding that running was my true passion. And it was on the cross country and track teams that I found an additional group of friends to endure Chaffee’s track workouts and banter with about the KU/KSU rivalry.
I spent my last four years at a place where the right leaders and resources exist to pursue any area of interest, regardless of how unique it may be. I had grown up always hoping to become a sports broadcaster. Here at East, I can thank Tim Shedor’s website revamping and Logan Heley’s dedication to attain the necessary equipment for helping me gain valuable experience in that field. I leave East having provided play-by-play commentary for over 50 broadcasts in five sports. While the long drives to Emporia, McPherson, Olathe and Lawrence may have become a drag, I’m fortunate to have been the voice of the Lancers as the football team captured the Sunflower League title and as Shawn Hair’s young squad upset the BV North Mustangs in the substate semifinals on the hardwood.
And I spent my last four years at a place where a perfectionist from Texas taught me to take more pride in telling the stories of others than I did my own. At the beginning of the year, I had the privilege of meeting Rachel Hoffman, a senior that refused to become discouraged at her grim 15 percent chance of survival from a rare blood cancer. Through the Harbinger, I had the opportunity to share her courage and perseverance with the school that she will proudly graduate from on Wednesday. And it was this same publication that gave me a sense of responsibility to describe in a few words a life that deserved many more. As I sat at Panera with the grieving mother of Elizabeth McGranahan as she described her deceased daughter’s wonderful communication abilities, I realized that the power of storytelling can keep a spirit alive.
As the year wound down, I tended to avoid statements detailing my senioritis or general discomfort with second semester education. It simply wouldn’t have been true. I’ll miss my classmates, I’ll miss the teachers and I’ll miss the relatively low level of stress that we all are able to enjoy. The first thing I learned here is the final line I’ll write as a Harbinger staffer: it’s always great to be a Lancer.